In the old west, losing draws will likely cost you your life. In the NHL, losing draws will likely cost you games.
The Rangers (10-4-3) were absolutely obliterated on face offs by a 37-9 margin in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena, that snapped their four game winning streak.
Defenseman Morgan Rielly scored both Toronto goals as the Leafs (12-5-1) have won five in a row and 10 of their last 11 games. “Somebody had to lose tonight, both teams were 4-0 in their last four. I liked the way we played, for the most part,” coach Gerard Gallant said after the game.
The Rangers, for the most part, did play well but the poor results in the face off circle, in all likelihood, was a contributing factor in the loss.
The individual face off numbers were ugly. Ryan Strome lost 11 of 12 draws, Kevin Rooney lost 9 of 10 while Barclay Goodrow and Filip Chytil combined, lost 9 of 10.
Gallant did not think losing draws by such a large margin was that big a deal. “They won a lot of draws. It didn’t have an outcome on the game for me,” he said. The players felt otherwise.
“Face offs killed us, myself included. It was terrible,” Strome said.
Mika Zibanejad actually won 4 of 6 face offs and admitted that the team’s inability to win draws has been on their minds. “There’s been a lot of talk since day one of training camp about it. I think it’s being more focused on now from everyone. I think that could get into your head,” the Rangers alternate captain said.
The Rangers amped up the pressure late in the third as they kept the puck in the Maple Leafs’ zone for the final minutes but couldn’t get the tying goal.
“Good game, good hockey game,” Gallant said. “Pushed at the end, tried to get a tie. Had two or three good chances, fell a little bit short.”
The inability to gain the puck on face offs really cost the Rangers at the end. The Rangers were coming on like gang busters but the Maple Leafs won two huge draws in the final minute that cost the Rangers, possession of the puck and time on the clock.
“If you look at the game, it’s 2-1 and they start with the puck, 80% of the time, 75% of the time, it’s hard to play against a team like that,” Strome said.
Toronto played a strong defensive game overall, but particularly in the first two periods when they controlled the play. When the Rangers finally generated some chances in the third, Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell made some clutch saves, including stopping Artemi Panarin on a breakaway.
Campbell came in as the top goaltender in the league with a 1.68 GAA while Shesterkin was fifth with a 2.42 GAA. Campbell made 26 saves while Shesterkin stopped 28 of 30 shots. Campbell improved to 10-3-1while Shesterkin is 8-3-2.
The Rangers finally broke through on the Leafs’ goalie in the third period when Dryden Hunt scored his first goal as a Ranger.
Kappo Kakko (who has now scored at least one point in three straight games) took a shot and hit Strome. The puck rebounded into the slot where Hunt cashed in with a quick shot to beat Campbell and cut the Leafs’ lead to 2-1 at 3:30 of the third period.
Rielly scored his first of the game on a one timer that beat Shesterkin on the glove side for a 1-0 lead at 3:41 of the first period.
Toronto had one power play opportunity and they cashed in for a 2-0 lead in the second period. Rielly took a pass from Auston Matthews and was able to beat Jacob Trouba (who has been playing well) near the left face off circle and move to the slot where he fired it past Shesterkin. Rangers were 0 for 1 with the man advantage.
Except for the face off stat, the Rangers played a good game. “We gave ourselves a chance to at least get a point from this but that’s how it goes sometimes,” Zibanejad said.